A supernova arises when a star explodes to create clouds or radioisotope-enriched gas and dust. Part of the dust from one or more stars has fallen to Earth in the last 20 million years, according to the study. Now it was found in snow, which comes from a sparsely populated continent.
"I'm really happy and happy to see something that has traveled billions of billions of miles through space and is millions of years old," said Dominik Koll, a nuclear astrophysicist who led the discovery and coauthored the study. "Being able to use the data on Earth is pretty amazing." Koll told CNN that researchers made the discovery after transporting 500 kg of snow from the Antarctic to a research facility in Munich.
] The researchers selected the remote area precisely because it is largely untouched. They tested snow because "it's the purest material you can find," said Koll.
The snow was melted and sifted through. The materials they contained were burned and tested on equipment that was sensitive enough to detect anomalies.
The samples were tested positive for iron-60.
However, it is unclear whether the earth is currently in a cloud of dust or whether it is a discovery of the remains of a cloud Regardless, the finding could provide clues to the location of the earth in the larger universe and information about the structure and origin of the cloud.
"You learn a lot about the dynamics and the sunshine environment," Koll said. "It's all our understanding of the process and the momentum that everything fits together."
Koll said that the next step is to test deposits of older ice cores to find out when and where the supernova happened and when our solar system entered the cloud of space dust.